Slowly, to consciousness, come and find your face crushed on pavement viscous. Dirt falling from eyelashes, blinking it away, gradually bringing your mind around.
On a long-stretch of road, nose full of tar, all movement meagre, your energy’s long fallen from bones. Use your dwindling strength to bring back what happened. Raise hand to forehead and press down on the crumbling wound there.
At first there’s no warmth. Only the hot black pain of frostbite. Then like a shock, the blankness ends again and I feel my skin start to thaw, my blood slowly pulsing through veins that had almost forgotten how to push it.
Being a Canadian woman writer of European descent, I came into Fauzia Rafique’s The Adventures of SahebaNwithout background knowledge of the role (Mirza) Sahiba plays in much of traditional Punjabi culture. The beauty of Rafique’s text however, is how my lack does not impact my understanding of how the narrative turns a cultural model for perfection (Sahiba) on her head to showcase the flaws of that very perfection, and (in particular) to show that a woman can be honourable, and pure, and loyal, without bowing to the restrictive ideas and expectations that society and religion place upon her.
For the last six years, I’ve been a freelancer. Even when I was still at school, even when I worked full time as a server, an administrator, an intern, I managed a whole other venture on the side, building it step-by-step. Just six months ago, I decided to take the full brunt of it–I risked my livelihood in trusting my trade to vest the rewards for which my heart yearned: not just money, but freedom. And, I wanted to create a life that was only writing.
“What?” you may be asking. “Writers don’t make money doing what they love.”
Well, believe what you want, but right now I want to tell you how I am challenging those odds and making money writing for others, writing for myself, and writing exactly what I want to be writing–no regrets.
I’m one of the lucky ones. I mean, I never got hooked.
Could’ve happened of course, that’s always a danger when you’re a Trader. Got a whole supply at my fingertips, could tap in anytime I want–be like those kingpins over there, rattling their yellow teeth my way, hopped up on the stuff, eyes crazy. But that’s not my style. A Trader’s gotta be fair, has to be clean. If he ain’t he’ll just be pushing for his own benefit. That’s not what it’s about, you know? It’s about helping people.
I’ve been doing this a long time, know all the tricks. That’s why I can call this side of town my own; everyone comes to me. They know I’ll be good to them, that I won’t cheat. I’m running a good thing, here. Got drop points all over the place, a few Runners and a couple of Recruiters. Good ones too. But they all know I’ve only got one rule: don’t get hooked and I’ll keep paying. Get hooked, and I’ll make sure you pay double-double.
There’s a lady already on about her damn therapeutic hairless cats when I get in. Trying to catch my breath, I make it almost to the back row, but of course all 10 or 12 of them are drawn to the smell of what snuck in with me—the lovely, sultry, slightly burned aroma of a running vacuum cleaner needing a good empty.
About this time last year, 62 contestants braved their worst fears by entering my “Face your Fears” Short Story Draw. Now you, just like Aleks, have the chance to win a short story that leaves you at the mercy of your worst fear. He was scared of being crushed alive…what are you afraid of?
Contest Closed; fright-writing in progress!
Whether privately or publicly, submit your worst fears to “Face your Fears” Short Story Contest by commenting below, or messaging directly through my Facebook page. All entries received by midnight on October 10, 2018 will be collected in a hat and drawn at random, with results posted the morning of October 11th, 2018.